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Breaking Down The Massachusetts Election Results

No Surprises, But Some Interesting Trends, In The Massachusetts Midterms

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Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks to the crowd at Massachusetts Democratic election night event at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, on November 6, 2018. Warren beat Republican challenger Geoff Diehl to retain her seat in the senate.
Meredith Nierman
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Breaking Down The Massachusetts Election Results

Despite some upsets across the country in yesterday's midterm elections, there were few surprises here in Massachusetts. Expectations were high for Charlie Baker and Elizabeth Warren, who were both easily reelected — their races were called just moments after the polls closed. WGBH News political reporter Adam Reilly spoke with Morning Edition Host Joe Mathieu about the Massachusetts results and what they mean for the Commonwealth. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: So, expectations for Baker and Warren. We talked about it a lot last night. There were big spreads between the incumbent and challenger in both races. Were they big enough?

Adam Reilly: I think they were for both of them. Let's take them one by one. With Baker, the poll numbers that we'd seen in the run-up to the election showed him winning by such a big margin, that I think a lot of people — even people who didn't want him to be reelected, people who assumed he would be reelected but were disappointed by that — thought there's no way he's actually going to pull off that sort of landslide that the polls are projecting. And he actually did. He beat Jay Gonzalez in every imaginable demographic. He beat him with women, he beat him with Democrats, it's been reported that Charlie Baker won the city of Boston by a point, which is really incredible.

I had the impression talking with and keeping tabs on what Gonzalez' people were saying through Election Day, that they thought that this higher than expected turnout was, not maybe going to propel Jay Gonzalez to the governorship, but was going to give him a more respectable margin. I think they assumed that the more people voted, you were going to get more people who were just going to vote a straight Democratic ticket when turnout exceeded a certain point. And that didn't, because Charlie Baker has crafted this remarkable political persona, where he appeals to Democrats almost as much as Republicans here in Massachusetts.

As for Elizabeth Warren, really impressive win over a candidate who I think was fatally flawed because he was so closely tied to Donald Trump And you can't run statewide and win when the state disapproves of Trump — seven out of 10 voters say that he is not doing a good job. If you don't put distance between yourself and the president, as Geoff Diehl did not, you can't win. The thing with Warren that I think might give her a little pause, or that she might wish had gone differently, is a majority of voters don't think she'd be a good president, according to AP data that we were talking about last night. Even among her voters, a majority think she would be a good president, but if memory serves, something like four in 10 don't think she would. So my guess is, she'd like those numbers to be a little bit higher than they were, a little bit different than they were. But, you know, that being said, she did win by a landslide. So she's probably feeling okay.

Mathieu: Shades of 2020, as Warren spoke to the crowd at her victory celebration last night.

Clip of Warren's Acceptance Speech: "Tonight as the first cracks begin to appear in that wall let us declare that our fight is not over until we have transformed our government into one that works, not just for the rich and the powerful but works for everyone."

Mathieu: I love that. It does sound like a national political address. And I think I asked you this last night, was that the first speech of the campaign?

Reilly: I am not trying to kiss up here, Joe. I think that absolutely was her first campaign speech. Not a ton of — I didn't count all the references to Massachusetts vs. sweeping reform of the government and cracks appearing in Donald Trump's wall of hate, to paraphrase Elizabeth Warren — but you didn't feel there like you were hearing from a candidate who was going to be laser focused on the state of Massachusetts. Of course that's the argument Geoff Diehl tried to make for his candidacy — she wants to be president, she's not worried about the state. And voters didn't buy it.

Mathieu: It's interesting though, you point out the data you were looking at last night, the question was not, do you think she'll run or should she, it was do you think she'll make a good president. Those are very different questions.

Reilly: Yeah, which made it I think a little bit more of a rebuke, that people answered the way they did. In previous polling that we've seen, it was do you want her to run or not, so you could ask yourself, 'Well, okay, maybe people say they don't want her to run because they absolutely treasure her as a champion in the Senate and don't want Massachusetts to lose that voice.' This is different, as you said.

Mathieu: We barely have time to talk about Mitt Romney.

Reilly: But we have to.

Mathieu: He's going to Washington.

Reilly: Yeah. This is my favorite story line to come out of this this election. Mitt Romney gave — it's worth reminding everyone — a remarkable anti-Donald Trump speech during the primaries, tried to derail his nomination, then was caught talking with him about becoming secretary of state. There's that picture where he looks embarrassed. Is he going to be pro-Trump or anti-Trump or somewhere in the middle? We shall see. We don't know at all, and it's going to be riveting to watch.

Mathieu: That's WGBH's Adam Reilly -- I hope you get to go to sleep! This is WGBH's Morning Edition.

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